Saturday, April 30, 2005

The Mad Professah Lobbies

I am spending Saturday through Wednesday in D.C., lobbying for re-authorization of the Ryan White CARE Act, the primary piece of federal legislation which funds HIV/AIDS services in the United States. Probably light blogging until Wednesday....

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Another Mad Professah

The amazing Patricia J. Williams, MacArthur "genius grant" Fellow, James L. Dohr Professor of Law at Columbia University and "Diary of a Mad Law Professor" columnist for The Nation visited my college on Wednesday and I had dinner with her and attended her talk.

I have been participating with a student reading group discussing her lastest book, Open House and I sometimes teach excerpts from her classic, The Alchemy of Race and Rights when I teach cultural studies classes.

Wednesday night Professor Williams gave a talk in Thorne Hall on the Occidental College campus where she addressed a number of issues relating to identity, power, politics, dialogue and activism with wit, insight and passion. It was an impressive performance!

Arianna is coming!

Arianna Huffington has a huge new celebrity-stuffed group blog debuting May 9th, called The Huffington Post. The New York Times has a puff piece about the upcoming blog and Mack over at has taken note. I'm looking forward to the blog. Arianna is the best thing on KCRW's Left, Right and Center and even though I did not vote for her for Governor of California in 2003, I think she is exactly the right person to spark a nexus between celebrity, left-leaning politics and the blogosphere. And anything which explicitly bills itself as competition to The Drudge Report, edited by a self-hating Republican homosexual, can't be bad!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Better Late Than Never

The Mayor of San Diego, Dick Murphy, finally resigned on Monday April 25th in the wake of a continuing corruption scandal. Murphy had been on shaky ground since he was recently named one of the three-worst mayors of a big city by Time magazine (Kwame Kilpatrick of Detroit and John Street of Philadelphia were the others).

You may also recall Mayor Murphy, because he was declared the winner of last Novembers' election even though he did not get the highest number of votes. That honor went to City Councilwoman Donna Frye who ran an amazing write-in campaign against Dick Murphy and his challenger Ron Roberts. However, a judge ruled that current state law says that not only must a voter write in the name of the person they want to vote for but they must also indicate that they are casting a write-in ballot. A subsequent examination of the ballots made it clear that more people wrote-in the name Donna Frye than wanted Dick Murphy or Ron Roberts to be Mayor of San Diego. Murphy's resignation is effective July 15th. Frye has said that she is interested in running in a November special election to replace him.

With any luck, by July 15th both California's first and second largest cities (Los Angeles and San Diego) will have new, more effective mayors!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Oh, and where is that, again?

Recently I bought a house in what is known as "Montecito Hills" or possibly, "Monterey Heights." (It's on the boundary between Monterey Hills and Montecito Heights.) I had no idea there was another huge park near me (Ernest F. Debs Park). After having lived in Eagle Rock for over a decade and experienced people change from saying "Oh, and where is that again?" to "Oh, wow, Eagle Rock---that is such a cute area!" I wanted to start up a conversation about all the neighborhoods that people at know about, live in, are interested in but which are still hidden gems to most of the Angeleno hoi polloi.

Who decides what the boundaries of a particular "neighborhood" are? Thomas Bros.? Realtors? The media? Us? This is not a trivial question, because in an era where the median house price in Los Angeles is hurtling towards one-half of a million dollars (it's basically already there for the state, L.A. is at $440, 000 behind the state median of $495,000). There are tens of thousands of dollars at stake between having your house in Eagle Rock versus Highland Park versus Glassell Park versus Mount Washington.

The delineation question is not the focus of this post, however, what I really want to talk about is your neighborhood in Los Angeles (or one that you have heard of or aspire to). For example, I want to talk about EAGLE ROCK!

"Where is that again?" It can be found on Page 594 of most Thomas Bros. maps, encompassing zip codes 90041 and 90042. Eagle Rock is in northeast Los Angeles, bounded by the 5, 134 and 2 freeways which intersect to form a triangle. Eagle Rock is in the interior of this triangle, it is also very close to Glendale, Pasadena and South Pasadena. Yes, there is an eagle rock in Eagle Rock. I never thought it looked much like an eagle until I saw this picture.

Politically, Eagle Rock is part of Los Angeles City Council District 14 represented by the next Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa.

Demographically, Eagle Rock is 39% Latino, 30% White, 25% Asian (mostly Filipino).

Housing prices in Eagle Rock have increased between 100% to 200% in the last decade.

Eagle Rock has a Target (2002), a Starbucks (2004) and a Trader Joe's (Store #55)! It also has numerous cafes, boutiques and an inordinate amount of auto repair shops and fast food store. Some people are not happy about the latter developments. The local neighborhood association, The Eagle Rock Association has the slogan "Eagle Rock: Where land use and planning is a contact sport"!

Eagle Rock also has a nationally ranked liberal arts undergraduate college: Occidental College.

Doing research for this post I came across this great webpage at the Los Angeles Almanac which describes the meanings and origins of names of places in Los Angeles County.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Compromise on Nuclear Option in Sight?

According to Chris Bowers at, there is a potential compromise being floated to avoid the Senate filibuster rule being eliminated by the Republicans followed by complete retaliatory gridlock by the Democrats. Yesterday, Senator Joseph Biden said "We will let a number of [the seven previously rejected judicial nominees] go through, the two most extreme not go through and put off this [rule-change] vote."

But as Chris points out, Frist would have pulled the trigger on the nuclear option already, but the Senate Majority Leader doesn't have the votes: All 44 Democrats are opposed, independent (and retiring) James Jeffords of VT is opposed, and there are 9 wavering Republicans: Chafee, Collins, Graham, Hagel, Lugar, McCain, Smith, Snow and Warner. Of these 9, four are already most likely opposed to eliminating the filibuster and thus whether it happens or not depends on Minority Reid getting the votes of just two of the remaining five undecideds: Graham (SC), Hagel (NB), Lugar (IN), Smith (OR) and Warner (VA). Many of whom have already expressed caution about removing a potent delaying tactic from the arsenal of the senate minority. Lugar and Smith are considered moderates and Hagel and Graham are considered mavericks. Warner, Hagel, and Lugar have all been in the Senate when they were in the minority and thus understand the important of the filibuster.

Friday, April 22, 2005

To KPCC or To KCRW, That Is The Question

We are truly blessed to live in Los Angeles where we have many fabulous public radio stations, among them KPCC 89.3 FM and KCRW 89.9 FM. (For the truly radical, or oddly perseverent there is also KPFK 90.7 FM.) Anyway, to me having these radio stations around is a significant component of quality of life in Southern California. Yes, the traffic sucks. Yes, the Mayor's a doofus. But, the weather is incredible!

One question one might want to ask is, which station should one subscribe to? The correct answer is both, but in this economy suppose that one has to make a choice. Let's compare the best (and worst) parts of these two public radio stations, so close on the radio dial, but so far away in a number of different areas:

KCRW Highlights

  • Amazing music programming: Garth Trinidad's Chocolate City, Raul Campos' Nocturna, Jason Bentley's Metropolis, Kevin Lincoln's Blueprint, and Kevin Ponthier's Let's Get Lost, among others
  • Respectable public affairs programming: Which Way, L.A.? (local) and To The Point(national)
  • Interesting selection of NPR programs (This American Life, Says You, etc) and locally produced, nationally syndicated shows: Harry Shearer's Le Show, Elvis Mitchell's The Treatment

KCRW Faults

  • No "niche" programming for particular segments of the Los Angeles community like the LGBT, Latino, Asian, Muslim, African American communities, etc etc--but it seems like all the important Jewish holidays have associated special programs. Hypocritical, much?
  • Impervious to criticism/suggestions (c.f. Sandra Tsing Loh brouhaha)

KPCC Highlights

  • Incredibly relevant public affairs show: "Air Talk with Larry Mantle"
  • Inadvertently amusing Canadian public affairs show "As It Happens" (eh?)
  • BBC News after midnight
  • "Film Week" on Fridays
  • Sandra Tsing Loh!

KPCC Faults

  • Too much talk: "Morning Edition" followed by "Day To Day" followed by "Air Talk" followed by "The World" followed by Terry Gross followed by "Talk of the City" followed by Marketplace" followed by "All Things Considered"? Sheeeesh!
  • Two words: Garrison Keillor.

Which station do you prefer?

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Quelle Surprise!: TX attempting to enact homophobic law

Well what a shocker! Despite the fact that there is a huge backlog of children waiting for foster homes and to be adopted in Texas, like in lots of other states, there is an attempt to legislatively ban gay or lesbians from being foster parents in Texas.

Just last December, a similar ban on gay and lesbian foster parents was struck down by a judge as unconstitutional in neighboring Arkansas. Currently, Utah, Florida and Mississppi have statutory bans on adoptions by gay or lesbian couples. In January 2004, Florida's statute survived a federal constitutional challenge by the ACLU.

Apparently, this proposed law in Texas was a last minute amendment as part of an overall privatization of the Child Protective Services agency being enacted by the Texas State legislature and championed by nearly-outed Texas Governor Rick Perry. State Representative Robert Talton who authored the amendment has been trying to ban gay foster care for two years.

This is a rare instance of a move away from the general trend of pro-gay legislation being passed at the state level recently. Another example is what happened in the Montana State Legislature on Monday when it killed any bill which could remotely be construed to provide a benefit to gay and lesbian citizens of the state.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

CT enacts same sex civil unions law

Republican Governor Jodi M. Rell of Connecticut has signed into law a compromise bill which bans state recognition of same sex marriage but enacts same-sex civil unions.
There are now two states which have civil unions (Vermont in 2000 and Connecticut in 2005) and one with same same-sex marriage (Massachusetts in 2004). What's interesting about Connecticut's action is that this was not done in response to an order by the state highest court (which was the Vermont situation). There is still a pending lawsuit seeking same-sex marriage in CT. There are also active lawsuits in New York, Washington, California and other states.

It is very likely that a similar event to Connecticut's civil union victory will happen in California this year: a Republican Governor (Arnold Schwarzenegger) will sign into law a same-sex marriage bill passed by a Democratic-controlled state legislature.
California, New Jersey and Hawaii already have domestic partnership registration laws which provide significant but not equivalent or sufficient benefits to same-sex couples registered in those states.

Gallup has recent polling data which suggests that support for same-sex marriage has recently dipped, with 57% now supporting a federal constitutional amendment to ban state recognition of same sex marriages, although about half of Americans also support either civil unions or same-sex marriage.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Zugzwang in LA Mayoral Race

With the announcement that Bob Hertzberg has endorsed Antonio Villaraigosa to be the next Mayor of Los Angeles, that electoral contest now resembles a classic position in chess known as zugzwang. As a pretty good chessplayer myself, I can recognize zugzwang when I see it. Hahn is in a zugzwang position. What that means is Hahn must do something, and whatever he does will make his position worse, and he will lose. Most advanced players would resign when faced with a lost position. It will be interesting to see what Hahn's reaction is. For Villaraigosa, it is not as advantageous as having checkmate, but that will happen on May 17!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

More Marat

Yummmmy. 2005 Australian Open champion Marat Safin has a new website: Check it out. Safin is one of the most watchable players on the men's tennis tour, for multiple reasons! He's the only person to have beaten the amazing Roger Federer this year....

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Villaraigosa Has Huge Lead Over Hahn

It's all over but the screaming. The Los Angeles Times reports that Antonio Villaraigosa leads incumbent Mayor Hahn 53-35 among likely voters in a poll on the front page of today's edition. Villaraigosa leads Hahn among every major segment of the electorate except for Republicans and Conservatives. OUCH!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Hahn Campaign Loses Magic

In another sign that the next Mayor of Los Angeles will be able to pronounce the original full name of the city without gagging, Magic Johnson announced he was endorsing Antonio Villaraigosa. This makes the him the fourth prominent African American opinion leader (following Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, Congressmember Maxine Waters and City Councilperson Bernard Parks) to switch from Hahn in 2001 to Villaraigosa in 2005. The only chance Hahn now has of winning the May 17th run-off is overwhelmingly high turnout in the Valley and underwhelmingly low turnout in South and East L.A. But that's not going to happen, and Hahn is going to lose his first citywide election.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Jesse Helms' go-to man marries man in MA

The New York Times reported recently that legendary Republicam political consultant, Arthur J. Finkelstein, married his longtime male companion of over 40 years in a civil ceremony in Massachusetts in December. Many of us remember Finkelstein as the political consultant who won many campaigns for conservative candidates like former Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, former Senator Al D'Amato of New York and Governor George Pataki of New York by demonizing their opponents with the use of the word "liberal." He is probably the man most single-handedly responsible for Democrats running away from the liberal label. It has long been known that Finkelstein was gay (he was outed in 1996 by Boston Magazine when he was working for Senator No's campaign for re-election against Harvey Gantt).

My point here is to point out that there are gay Republicans who actively support candidates and causes who are completely opposed to gay people receiving equal treatment under the law, but when there are civil rights victories, those same gay Republicans do not hesitate to enjoy the fruits of those victories, which was the labors of others, and victories which their candidates actively denounce. There's a word for such people and it begins with H (and no, I don't mean "homosexual" though in some sense one hesitates to call such people who express same-sex attraction and behavior "gay" since that word really connotes someone who has come to some level of acceptance with their sexuality). The word is hypocrite.

Obama is blogging!

Thanks to the indispensable Political Wire, I can tell you that Senator Barack Obama, the only African American member of the United States Senate and national Democratic political star, has a blog:

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Venus and Serena Start Clay Season With Losses

Both Williams sisters opened the clay season with quarterfinal losses in their first tournament on that surface this year. Venus played well but lost to eventual champion Lindsay Davenport, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the quarterfinals of the Bausch & Lomb Championships at Amelia Island in Florida. Serena was leading 7-5, 5-4, 15-40 when she tumbled and twisted her ankle, lost that game and ended up in a tie-break. Serena led the tiebreak with triple match point 6-3 but after eventual finalist Silvia Farina Elia won the tiebreak and second set 9-7, Serena refused to continue and conceded the match. Let's hope these setback are not a bellweather of the Williams' clay court season!

Friday, April 08, 2005

Remembering Ryan White 15 years later

Exactly 15 years ago today, on April 8, 1990, Ryan White died from complications due to HIV/AIDS. Ryan was a teenager from Kokomo, Indiana who was a hemophiliac who contracted HIV through exposure to blood products used to treat his condition. He was able to focus the nation's attention on the stigma that people with HIV/AIDS feel when in 1985 he was banned from attending his school at age 13 because members of the community worried that he would infect other students via the drinking fountain!

The Ryan White CARE Act is now the single most important piece of federal legislation which deals with the funding of HIV/AIDS in the United States. Although a call for its reauthorization was included in President Bush's 2005 State of the Union address the current legislation expires on September 30, 2005 and currently Bush's FY 2006 budget calls for flat funding in an area where the number of people infected (and affected) by HIV/AIDS is not constant, but increasing. There are an estimated 1 million HIV positive individuals in the United States, with up to 250 000 people not knowing their HIV status.

This is another example of the Bush administration saying one thing and doing another, particularly on HIV/AIDS. In the 2005 State of the Union, President Bush mentioned his support for increased funding for the Minority HIV/AIDS Initiative, but his proposed budget does not match his words. People are starting to notice.

In the 2003 State of the Union President Bush shocked the world with his announcement of a FIVE YEAR FIFTEEN BILLION DOLLAR initiative to turn the tide against the Global HIV/AIDS pandemic. The advocacy group AIDS Action has an analysis of Bush's money versus his mouth on recent HIV/AIDS funding (pdf). The results are not pretty. Two years into the Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) one would think six billion dollars would have been committed to fight Global AIDS, right? Sadly, no! The total is closer to five billion.

On this warm spring day, take a little time to remember a little kid from Indiana who was able to put a face on the HIV/AIDS epidemic and even though he lost his life to the disease, he was able to be focus for saving a lot of other lives.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Blogging Hiatus Over...

Well, I have finished the large project which was cutting into my ability to blog regularly. A lot has happened since I realized a few weeks ago that I couldn't maintain my more-than-daily posting rate and make the submission deadline the editors requested. However, that's done, so I'm baaaaaaaaaaaaack!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Corpulent Female Preparing To Warble

Jim Hahn's attempt to hold on to his seat as Mayor of Los Angeles just got a lot tougher today when it was announced that former LAPD Police Chief and current LA City Councilman Bernard Parks is endorsing Antonio Villaraigosa for Mayor. After being endorsed by other prominent African American elected officials such as L.A. County Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke and Congressperson Maxine Waters. One of the main reasons Hahn beat Villaraigosa in the Mayoral run-off in 2001 was that the African American vote went overwhelmingly to the son of beloved County Supervisor Kenny Hahn. However, as everyone realizes now, Jim Hahn is no Kenny Hahn and Antonio Villaraigosa is going to be the next Mayor of Los Angeles. What's that sound I hear, I think it's the first few notes of a soprano aria...


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